Friday, 5 April 2013

Bigger Fish in the Sea

A set of fighters for the Aquan Fleet was my second project, this time I wanted to tackle something bigger. I quite like the original Aquan sculpts by Spartan Games. The fish-like appearance reminded me of some of my favourite vessels from Star Wars, but the smooth lines and an "alien" look usually wins me over. Here are some of my painted versions of their models:

As the game Firestorm Armada grew, so did the number models available. Unfortunately the new Aquan Fleet releases were quite different in appearance from the original models. The detail on the model was greatly increased, but this had a negative effect on the smooth fish-like appearance that I was so fond of. A couple of Spartan's renders as an example (courtesy of the black ocean):


Nice looking designs, very good work, but they missed all the character of the originals, I felt. Was it a new sculptor? I never found out.
So as you can probably guess by now, I decided to design my own replacements.

I started with the Destroyer first. In-game the destroyers are specialized long-range vessels with cloaking capabilities. More analogous to a modern submarine. They tend to be slower than the typical cruiser. This specific destroyer has powerful side weapons, and weak frontal ones. The Destroyer model didn't reflect that very well. It looks front-oriented, with very little weaponry displayed on the sides.

Looking at real fish for inspiration, I thought the flounder and the mola-mola had some potential. I liked the shape and thought that the powerful side weapons could be best represented by oversized orbs (mega-lasers) since the weapons are usually portrayed as small protruding spheres and ovals.
This was the final design:

There was another unsuccessful design which looked similar, but didn't turn out very well. It was an experiment in new software, but the biggest problem was the size of some of the details. The engines and weapon ports were too small and needed to be increased. The second version, shown here, addressed most of these problems and added a few more details. I 3D printed 3 of them (a full squad) and painted them up to match the rest of the fleet.

During the build there was a little "wiggle" and you can see the effect in the mid-section of a few of them. This is a specific drawback to the Vflash 3D printer system I use. The models are built upside down, and gravity can be your enemy as the build platform moves. Sometimes the layers of material end up slightly misaligned, causing the stepped effect. A little sandpaper and body-filler can solve the problem, but some areas are hard too hard to reach, or too deep.

The next model to tackle was the dreadnought. A "dreadnought" in this game is simply a larger-than-usual battleship. In the case of the Aquan Fleet, the dreadnought is also a carrier vessel as well as a fighting vessel. The design that Spartan Games came up with left me cold. It's a big departure from the originals. Tentacles? Why would a space ship ever need tentacles? It looks a lot like a gicantic squid of sorts, and resembles this Romulan ship from the new Star Trek in concept:

Cool, but it just doesn't match the theme, in my mind. I went a different way, sweeping the ship backwards instead of creating a giant mouth. The Spartan design placed the launch bays in the front, creating a giant shot-trap, practically inviting the enemy to target the weakest part of the ship as it approaches. I put my launch bays towards the rear face, gave it 3 sides to maximize surface area for weapon pods (to match the in-game statistics). And voila!

It was a tricky CAD design, that required plenty of planning. However, with more experience I'm now able to get a little more detail in, like panel lines and such things.

The build was troublesome. When I printed out a 1:1 paper version of the above image, I thought it looked too small. So I bumped it up by 10%. Big mistake. When I 3D printed the model it was way too big ... It looked out of place. I scrapped it, and reprinted it 20% smaller, again a mistake. Sheesh. This one was too small! I reprinted it a third time -- at the original size I had designed it and it was perfect. I guess the lesson is "don't second guess yourself" but I second guess myself all the time and usually it helps! The build:

Here it is painted and based with some fighters for comparison:

And here it is with the other Spartan Games battleships for comparison:

Both of these designs are available from my shapeways shop. They are a little expensive compared to the Spartan Games models, but I may look into casting them someday which would greatly reduce the price. I have a lot to learn before I can make high quality castings, so it may be while ....


  1. Awesome designs Noel.
    For me these are to big (expensive) for Shapeways.
    But if you ever get to casting them I'll surely be interested in an Aquan fleet.
    I don't like those tentacles either ;o)

    Keep up the good work,


  2. Some of your images appear to have been hijacked with spam! Oh no!